Countries asked to fight invasive species – the hidden threat to sustainable development
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06 September 2018
Author :   Isaiah Esipisu

KIGALI, Rwanda (PAMACC News) - An international research organisation has called for urgent action to tackle the global spread of invasive species, which they say is a major threat to sustainable development.

The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) has called on counties to ensure that they have national invasive species strategies and action plans in place by 2020 including a national priority list identifying their highest outbreak risks and targeting national efforts accordingly.

“We are falling behind, and progress is currently too slow to achieve the ambitious targets set by the international community,” said Dr Dennis Rangi, the CABI’s Director General for Development.

“If we do not accelerate progress on these critical issues, further outbreaks cannot be prevented,” He told journalists on September 6 at the 2018 Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda.

An invasive species is a plant, weed, worm or any other species that is not native to a specific location, and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health.  

The fall armyworm is the most important invasive species in 40 African countries and Asia where it has caused untold losses particularly for maize farmers. Known scientifically as, Spodoptera frugiperda, the caterpillar originates in Central and South America. It was first identified in West Africa in January 2016, and has since moved to nearly all African countries.

In East Africa, Prosopis juliflora (known in Kenya as Mathenge) is another invasive species that is devastating goat farmers especially in dryland areas. The shrub produces pods that are too sugary, and when goats feed on them, the sugar content affects the teeth, forcing them to fall off.

Opuntia megacantha is another invasive species in form of cactus. The fruits have sharp thorns, and when livestock animals feed on them, the thorns remain pierced all over in the mouth, in the gums and on the tongue, making it impossible for the animal to feed again. This eventually leads to death of affected animal due to starvation.

And now, CABI has launched an Action on Invasives programme to enable developing countries to prevent or detect and control invasive species in order to protect and restore agricultural and natural ecosystems, reduce crop losses, improve health, remove trade barriers and reduce degradation of natural resources.

The research organisation is also calling on governments to prioritise investment in tackling invasive species and also to develop policy/regulations that will encourage the use of lower risk management methods (biocontrol, Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The Action on Invasives programme has already been piloted on specific species in Ghana and Pakistan, with support and funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Netherlands’ Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS). It is now being scaled up so that people around the world can fulfil their potential and help their countries prosper.

It is estimated that the fall armyworm in Africa has the potential to cause maize yield losses of up to 20.6 million tonnes per annum in just 12 of Africa’s maize-producing countries. This represents nearly 53% of annual production. The value of these losses is estimated to be up to US$6.2 billion. This despite the fact that maize is the most important staple cereal crop grown by smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa and is the dominant cereal grown in most other African countries.

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